In Summary
  • In a February 28 notice published in the Kenya Gazette on Tuesday, Prof Wakhungu ordered polythene bags done away with by August 28.
  • The Kenya Association of Manufacturers said the ban would affect the country more negatively than positively.
  • This is the third attempt by the government since 2005 to rein in the plastic bag menace, which has been associated with adverse environmental effects.

Mixed reactions followed Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu’s notice to ban plastic bags.

In a February 28 notice published in the Kenya Gazette on Tuesday, Prof Wakhungu ordered polythene bags, commonly used to wrap foodstuff and shopping, done away with by August 28.

The CS banned “the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging”, which fall in two categories — carrier bags and flat bags.

A carrier bag is one that is “constructed with handles, and with or without gussets” while a flat bag is one “constructed without handles, and with or without gussets”. A gusset is defined as an extra piece of material joined with another to make it wider, stronger or more comfortable.

Prof Wakhungu’s announcement, which she shared on her Twitter handle on Wednesday, was received with cautious optimism.

The United Nations commended the government for the move, which comes just three weeks after UN Environment declared war against plastics through its “Clean Seas Initiative” was launched.

AFFECT KENYANEGATIVELY

“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” said Mr Erik Solheim, the executive director of UN Environment.

However, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said the ban would affect the country more negatively than positively.

“We have over 176 plastic manufacturing companies in Kenya which directly employ 2.89 per cent of all Kenyan employees and indirectly employ over 60,000 people,” said KAM in a statement. “These jobs and livelihoods will be negatively affected.”

KAM also argued that the notice of six months was not enough for the affected firms to clear stocks and close shop or for the country to find a suitable alternative to plastic bags.

This is the third attempt by the government since 2005 to rein in the plastic bag menace, which has been associated with adverse environmental effects.

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